Garnet Peak

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As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!

Sunrise from Garnet Peak
Snow on the Pacific Crest Trail on the way to Garnet Peak

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved.  Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability.  All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here.   Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Garnet Peak

  • Location: Eastern San Diego County in the Cleveland National Forest, near the town of Mt. Laguna.  From San Diego, take I-8 to exit 47 (Sunrise Highway or County Road S1).  Head north (left) for 14.6 miles and park at the Penny Pines Trailhead on the right side of the road.  From Julian and points north take highway 79 to Sunrise Highway/S1 and head southeast (left) for 9.2 miles.  The Penny Pines Trailhead will be on the left.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Descanso District
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 450 feet
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season:  All year (hot in the summer, snowy in the winter)
  • USGS topo maps:  Monument Peak
  • More information: here; trip reports here, here and here.
  • Rating: 10

For my 100th hike post on, I’ve picked a sentimental favorite of mine: 5,880-foot Garnet Peak in the Laguna Mountains, the easternmost range in San Diego County.  Geographically, this is probably the farthest hike from L.A. that I’ve posted, and even from San Diego it’s a good hour or so, but for hiking buffs, it’s an essential trip, and even non-hikers who are anywhere close will be inspired by the views along the way and from the top.   For a particularly memorable experience, try to get up early and see the sunrise from the top (I am writing at the approximate time that I arrived at the trail for my second trip there, at which point I saw a mountain lion walk across the Sunrise Highway and into the bushes).

From Penny Pines, look for a trail passing an obscure sign that reads “Garnet Peak” (and another sign that says “Non-potable water.”)  On some maps, it appears as “Noble Canyon.”  This leads to the Pacific Crest Trail; turn left and start heading north, taking in dramatic views of the Anza-Borrego Desert far below.   (With the trail obscured by snow, I made the mistake of climbing up the hill on my first trip here and ended up having to back track).  Garnet’s summit comes into view shortly, and after about a mile and a half, you arrive at an intersection.  Take a right (the Pacific Crest trail continues straight ahead) and head up to the summit.  This last stretch is the only really steep part of the hike, and some people may feel the altitude, but it lasts just over half a mile.

The 360-degree view from the summit is great; on a clear day, you can see Baldy, San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, the Salton Sea, the Anza-Borrego Desert and much more.  The dramatic drop-off to the desert, a mile below, is perhaps the hike’s most memorable feature.  In researching other peoples’ trip reports, I learned that there is a stone monument on the summit as well as a rope swing (!)  I didn’t see either, but will look for them next time.

Don’t let Garnet’s remote location deter you; it can easily be combined with other hikes in the area, such as Julian’s Vulcan Mountain Preserve (with apple season at hand, Julian is a fun place to spend a weekend) or Stonewall Peak.

Well, hike post #100 is a wrap – thanks for reading, everyone.  Now time for #101!

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